100 Days of School

I spoke with my editor on Friday and she told me her son was celebrating the 100th day of school AND Valentine's Day on Friday in his first grade class. (Did I mention how much I loved teaching first graders?)

This reminded me of this article I wrote:

Book Links: November 1999 (v.9 no.2)

Celebrating the One-Hundredth Day of School
by Dr. Helen Foster James

The world may be counting down to the year 2000, but another counting is taking place right now in primary grades throughout the country to commemorate an event that happens every year: the one hundredth day of school. The count begins on the first day of school, when number lines and tallies begin, and counting sticks are placed in the 1s container. Culminating celebration activities abound as cereal, leaves, buttons, beads, and other everyday items are counted, sorted and placed in groups of 10, displayed, or mounted.

Now is the perfect time to bring out your favorite counting books, assess your collection, and add a few new treats to your shelves in preparation for this year’s celebration. It provides a great opportunity for reading a few counting books aloud and making a classroom or library display for children to enjoy.

A few books have been written specifically for this kind of celebration. Angela Shelf Medearis told this story about the beginnings of her book The 100th Day of School:

I was visiting a school when a tribe of first graders walked into the assembly wearing sashes and hats decorated with all kinds of odd things glued on them. The teacher was wearing a vest with 100 pennies glued all over it. I thought that maybe it was somebody’s birthday and asked the teacher. She told me that it was the 100th day of school. She was a first year teacher and I thought that maybe she was particularly happy to have completed 100 days! But, then she told me all about celebrating the 100th day of school and the counting and calendar activities teachers did. I knew immediately that I wanted to write a story about the 100th day of school to give teachers a tool.

The book has become a great resource for students and teachers. The book’s illustrator, Joan Holub, created a Web site () to complement the book. The site presents more than “200 Celebration Ideas for the 100th Day of School” to assist teachers in activities and projects. Some of the ideas included are having a person who is 100 years old visit the class, collecting 100 postcards, and having the principal come to class as a “Zero Hero.”

When Josef Slate’s Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten was published, everywhere Ashley Wolff, the book’s illustrator, went, kindergarten teachers told her Miss Bindergarten should celebrate 100 days. Ashley was familiar with the one hundredth day of school concept from her own children’s school experiences and was eager to make an accurate, helpful picture book for the occasion. She recalls:

There was high drama associated with Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten that I still speak about whenever I show slides of it. I relied heavily on the creativity and the generosity of all the teachers I know to help me come up with ideas for the 100-days activities and ran all ideas by them for appropriateness and accuracy. When all the art was done, I, of course, checked it, my teacher and librarian friends looked it over, my editor and numerous art people and assistants checked it and it was sent to Hong Kong for printing.

I was showing slides I had taken before I had sent it off at a conference when a teacher raised her hand and bravely said “I see a mistake.” Well, she had spotted little cut-off milk cartons tacked to the calendar easel and filled with counting straws for each day of the year. I had reversed the place order and put the ones in the hundreds’ place and no one had spotted it until she did!

I thanked her, finished my show and went straight home to call my editor and tell her to literally stop the presses. This embarrasses me to this day but shows what utter dependence I have on the kindness of teachers!

Emily’s First One Hundred Days of School chronicles her school adventures, one day at a time, as she encounters and learns her numbers in a variety of ways. Rosemary Wells makes connections between numbers and the many ways they appear in our daily life, including games, poetry, and songs. The song “Tea for Two,” the card game Crazy Eights, the town Twenty-nine Palms, and piccalilli labels with 57 varieties of pickles are just a few of the ways that Wells has incorporated numbers, counting, and everyday life in this counting-book treasure.

Counting books about and many of those not purposefully written for the day also make great contributions to the festivities. Pam Muñoz Ryan, the author of One Hundred Is a Family, explains a little about the counting that takes place in her book:

The book counts one to ten and then to one hundred by tens. On each page, the number of people increases. There are twenty people on a spread, then thirty people on the next spread, then forty people, fifty, sixty, and up to one hundred. And are there exactly that many people on each page? Absolutely! A third grader even told me an easy way to count them. She said, “It’s not hard, you just take a ruler and move it slowly across the page and count each face you see.” How many people are in the book? 595!

How Many Ants? illustrator Joan Cottle writes in her illustrator’s note that she painted “more than 1,050 ants, 2,100 antennae, and 6,300 ant legs!” to complete the book. Its author, Larry Dane Brimner, explained the process of writing his emergent reader in this way:

I knew I wanted to write a book dealing with the concept of 100 and the idea of 100 ants seemed intriguing. The problem was to do it in a way that accommodated the repetitiveness of the emergent reader and respected the confines of telling a “story” in a limited number of words. The result was the classic “quest,” with a visual set up on the title page through an illustration of the scout ant and opening with a map. The quest, or treasure hunt, ensues and as the army of ants advances toward its goal it increases by tens—a concept I commonly witness in kindergartens throughout the country. The conclusion required some sort of surprise, since the reader knows from the very outset that the ants are after a cake, so I opted to have human characters beat them to it. And that leaves us with “One hundred ants too late!”

Upper-grade teachers and students needn’t feel left out of the younger children’s celebration. There are a host of picture books that are sophisticated and can be enjoyed by all ages, including Laura Rankin’s The Handmade Counting Book. This book will delight all readers as they view hands signing the numbers from 1 to 20 and then 25, 50, 75, and 100, in American Sign Language. Longtime favorites such as Eleanor Estes’ The Hundred Dresses, Sharon Bell Mathis’ The Hundred Penny Box, and Rachel Field’s Hitty, Her First Hundred Years may make a fine read-aloud choice for the celebration. In addition, Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers have collaborated on Rachel Field’s Hitty: Her First Hundred Years with New Adventures.

The books listed below reflect some of the best of those available that are dedicated to celebrations of the one hundredth day of school, and a small selection of counting books that adapt very well to use in such programs.

One Hundredth Day Books

Cuyler, Margery. 100th Day Worries. Illus. by Arthur Howard. 2000. 32p. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-82979-5).
Preschool–Gr. 2. Jessica is a worrier. When her first-grade teacher asks each child to bring a collection of 100 things for the one hundredth day of school, Jessica worries about what to bring, until her family help out with contributions from their own collections. This charming story of a supportive family, depicted in quirky cartoon illustrations, incorporates lots of counting and addition.

Harris, Trudy. 100 Days of School. Illus. by Beth Griffis Johnson. 1999. 32p. Millbrook, $21.90 (0-7613-1271-4).
K–Gr. 2. Clever math problems focus on familiar objects and animals and are paired with witty asides and livened with bright, clear illustrations, making this picture book a great resource for ideas for celebrating the first 100 days of school.

Medearis, Angela Shelf. The 100th Day of School. Illus. by Joan Holub. 1996. 32p. Scholastic, paper, $3.99 (0-590-25944-X).
Preschool–Gr. 2. Celebrate the special day and “do everything the 100 way” with this easy reader showing children planting 100 seeds, learning 100 spelling words, and baking 100 cookies.

Slate, Joseph. Miss Bindergarten Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten. Illus. by Ashley Wolff. 1998. 32p. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-46000-4).
Preschool–Gr. 2. The creators of the popular Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten present this companion book. In this lively look at the one hundredth day celebration in kindergarten, each student must bring 100 of some wonderful thing.

Wells, Rosemary. Emily’s First One Hundred Days of School. 2000. 61p. Hyperion, $15.99 (0-7868-0507-2).
K–Gr. 2. Emily starts learning her numbers on her first day of school, and each day she learns a number in a different way.

Related Books

Appelt, Kathi. Bats on Parade. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. 1999. 32p. Morrow, $16 (0-688-15665-7).
K–Gr. 3. On a midsummer’s eve, the Marching Bat Band arrives and its members assemble, marching and playing their instruments, to create a rollicking parade of 385 bats. The first bats arrive in 2s, then 3 by 3, up to 10 by 10, creating multiplication problems as they march along. The counting story is told in rhyme, with lively illustrations, by the creators of Bat Jamboree (1996).

Arnosky, Jim. Mouse Numbers: A Very First Counting Book. 1999. 48p. Clarion, $4.95 (0-395-55006-8).
Preschool–Gr. 1. A mouse journeys from 0 to 10 and back again in this small-sized, wordless book where young readers enjoy spotting the numerals in the mouse’s surroundings.

Beaton, Clare. One Moose, Twenty Mice. 1999. 32p. Barefoot, $14.95 (1-902283-37-6).
Preschool–K. Can the reader find the ginger cat hidden among each of the felt-art stitched pages of this charming book? This simple book presents the numbers 1–20 with an interactive flair.

Brimner, Larry Dane. How Many Ants? Illus. by Joan Cottle. 1997. 32p. Children’s Press, $17 (0-516-20398-3); paper, $4.95 (0-516-26251-3).
Preschool–Gr. 2. Part of the Rookie Readers series for emergent readers, this story counts along as ants continue to increase by multiples as they march up the hill toward a tall, tall cake. One hundred ants march toward, over, by, and down to their goal.

Estes, Eleanor. The Hundred Dresses. Illus. by Louis Slobodkin. 1944. 81p. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-237374-8); paper, $6 (0-15-642350-2).
Gr. 3–6. This Newbery Honor Book tells the story of Wanda, who wears the same faded blue dress every day. She tells her schoolmates that she has 100 dresses at home of silk, velvet, and all colors.

Field, Rachel. Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Illus. by Dorothy P. Lathrop. 1929. 224p. Simon & Schuster, $17 (0-02-734840-7); paper, $4.99 (0-440-40337-5).
Gr. 4–7. This classic story of Phoebe’s remarkable wooden doll and her exciting adventures both on land and at sea through the course of a century was the Newbery Medal recipient in 1930.

Hassett, John, and Ann Hassett. Cat up a Tree. 1998. 32p. Houghton, $15 (0-395-88415-2).
K–Gr. 3. Nana Quimby asks for help from the firehouse, police, pet shop, zoo, library, and even city hall, as cats and more cats are stuck in her tree. Will anyone help her rescue the stranded cats? The cats are depicted in 5s, from 5 all the way up to 40, making the counting part of the fun in this humorous tale.

Johnson, Stephen T. City by Numbers. 1998. 32p. Viking, $15.99 (0-670-87251-2).
Preschool–Gr. 5. Tour New York City as Johnson explores it in these realistic paintings featuring the numbers 1 through 21, all hidden within the city’s sights. Twenty-one was selected as the final number to salute the twenty-first century, in this companion to the 1996 Caldecott Honor Book Alphabet City.

Krudwig, Vickie Leigh. Cucumber Soup. Illus. by Craig McFarland Brown. 1998. 32p. Fulcrum, $16.95 (1-55591-380-6).
K–Gr. 2. One tiny flea, two praying mantises, and other insects in the garden work together to provide the strength needed to move the cucumber. Factual information about each insect is included, and a recipe for cucumber soup completes this offering. The book is also available in a Spanish version, Sopa de Pepino, translated by Antonio Madrigal.

Lesser, Carolyn. Spots: Counting Creatures from Sky to Sea. Illus. by Laura Regan. 1999. 32p. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-200666-4).
K–Gr. 3. Spotted animals from around the world introduce the numbers from 1 to 10. The animals are depicted in biomes, and notes at the end of this informative book provide background on each biome. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the language is delightful—salamanders are sloshing, wiggling, and lurking—in this nonfiction book that successfully combines facts with fun.

Marsh, T. J., and Jennifer Ward. Way Out in the Desert. Illus. by Kenneth J. Spengler. 1998. 32p. Rising Moon, $15.95 (0-87358-678-5).
K–Gr. 3. The Sonoran Desert community is presented in this variation of Olive A. Wadsworth’s poem “Over in the Meadow.” A glossary explains the desert terms, and music notations are provided.

Mathis, Sharon Bell. The Hundred Penny Box. Illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. 1975. 47p. Viking, $16.99 (0-670-38787-8).
Gr. 2–5. An intergenerational story of a boy and his 100-year-old great-great-aunt. Aunt Dew’s most precious possession is her 100-penny box, which holds 1 penny for each year of her life.

McGrath, Barbara Barbieri. The Cheerios Counting Book. Illus. by Rob Bolster and Frank Mazzola, Jr. 1998. 32p. Scholastic, $10.95 (0-590-00321-6); paper, $4.95 (0-590-68357-8).
Preschool–Gr. 2. A one hundredth day celebration would not be complete without counting Cheerios or a similar cereal. This book uses Cheerios as the tool to count from 1 to 20 and then in groups of 10 to 100.

Merriam, Eve. Ten Rosy Roses. Illus. by Julia Gorton. 1999. 32p. HarperCollins, $14.95 (0-06-027887-0).
K–Gr. 2. Julia Gorton’s ‘50s-style illustrations complement Eve Merriam’s poem that counts down from 10 to 0 as children pick roses for their teacher.

Rankin, Laura. The Handmade Counting Book. 1998. 32p. Dutton, $15 (0-8037-2309-1).
All ages. This lovely book counts from 1 to 20 and then 25, 50, 75, and 100 in American Sign Language. The illustrations provide the hand motions, and display realistic, beautifully illustrated objects to be counted. This is a companion book to the popular The Handmade Alphabet (1991).

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. One Hundred Is a Family. Illus. by Benrei Huang. 1994. 32p. Hyperion, $14.49 (1-56282-673-5); paper, $4.95 (0-7868-1120-X).
Preschool–Gr. 2. Counting first from 1 to 10, then by 10s to 100, this book celebrates the many meanings of family. People connect in ever-widening circles, creating families of community, heritage, and friendship.

Sís, Peter. Fire Truck. 1998. 24p. Greenwillow, $14.95 (0-688-15878-1).
Preschool–K. This award–winning author-illustrator demonstrates his artistic range in this simple story. Matt, a little boy with a passion for fire trucks, wakes up to find he is a fire truck—with one driver, two ladders, three hoses, and other equipment to count. The metaphor extends visually through a gatefold illustration that opens into a three-page spread.

Tolstoy, Aleksei. The Gigantic Turnip. Illus. by Niamh Sharkey. 1999. 40p. Barefoot, $15.95 (1-902283-12-0).
K–Gr. 3. Tolstoy’s popular tale is told with six yellow canaries, five white geese, four speckled hens, three black cats, two pot-bellied pigs, and one brown cow. They all work together to help the old man and the old woman pull up their gigantic turnip. Quirky illustrations make this an excellent variation of this favorite tale.

Walton, Rick. So Many Bunnies: A Bedtime ABC and Counting Book. Illus. by Paige Blair. 1998. 32p. Lothrop, $16 (0-688-13656-7).
Preschool–Gr. 2. Old Mother Rabbit lived in a shoe with her 26 children. Each bunny child is named after a letter of the alphabet, and each is placed to sleep in a location that rhymes with his or her name: “18 was named Rae. She slept in the hay.” Rhymes, alphabet, counting, and bedtime bunnies add up to pleasure in this sweet concept book.

Wells, Rosemary. Rachel Field’s Hitty: Her First Hundred Years with New Adventures. Illus. by Susan Jeffers. 1999. 112p. Simon & Schuster, $19.95 (0-689-81716-9).
Gr. 3–7. Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers have collaborated on extending the classic story about a girl and her doll.

Helen Foster James teaches children’s literature at University of California, San Diego, and National University. She is the author of Across the Generations: Selecting and Using Intergenerational Resources (Highsmith, 1997).